Just days after a mass shooting occurred at Virginia Beach, Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders harshly criticized the National Rifle Association and called for more gun control. But some of his latest comments run contrary to statements he’s made in the past.
According to Virginia Beach officials, on May 31 a shooter identified as 40-year-old city employee DeWayne Craddock shot and killed 12 people at the city’s municipal center. Eleven of the dead were city employees and one was a contractor. Craddock was killed in a subsequent shootout with police.
Sanders wasted little time in posting a political comment on Twitter. “The days of the NRA controlling Congress and writing our gun laws must end,” he tweeted, adding that Congress must “pass gun safety legislation.”
Jane and I are grieving for the victims in Virginia Beach and their families.
The days of the NRA controlling Congress and writing our gun laws must end. Congress must listen to the American people and pass gun safety legislation. This sickening gun violence must stop. https://t.co/iSAtYWg7HH
— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) May 31, 2019
Two days later he said there’s “no middle ground” on the issue of gun safety.
40,000 people were killed last year with guns. There is no “middle ground” when it comes to gun safety. We will take on the NRA. #NoMiddleGround
— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) June 2, 2019
Sanders’ new no-compromise approach to gun control contradicts statements he has made in past interviews on this subject.
Speaking in a 2015 interview with CNN, he said, “Folks who do not like guns [are] fine. But we have millions of people who are gun owners in this country — 99.9 percent of those people obey the law. I want to see real, serious debate and action on guns, but it is not going to take place if we simply have extreme positions on both sides. I think I can bring us to the middle.”
Also in the past, Sanders has proposed alternative approaches to addressing mass shootings, such as addressing the nation’s mental health issues.
“Nobody believes that gun control by itself is going to end the horrors we have seen in Newtown, Conn., Aurora, Colo., Blacksburg, Va., Tucson, Ariz. and other American communities,” he said in a 2013 statement released on his U.S. Senate page.
“There is a growing consensus, however, in Vermont and across America that we have got to do as much as we can to end the cold-blooded, mass murders of innocent people believe very strongly that we also have got to address the mental health crisis in our country and make certain that help is available for people who may be a danger to themselves and others,” he said.
In a 2015 interview with NPR, he urged respect for rural America and its law-abiding gun owners.
“I think that urban America has got to respect what rural America is about, where 99 percent of the people in my state who hunt are law-abiding people,” he said.
The Sanders 2020 campaign did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday.
Bill Moore, a firearms policy analyst with the Vermont Traditions Coalition, told True North that Sanders’ position is “pure hypocrisy.” Moore worked on the 1988 U.S. House campaign for Paul Poirier against Sanders, so he remembers the early Sanders position on guns.
“Bernie in the early days would take a hands-off approach to gun control because he was running as a House member for Vermont — it was just a convenience. Howard Dean used to take a hands-off approach when he was governor as far as gun control in Vermont, but of course the handwriting is on the wall when you try to go to Washington. They immediately take a national position, which is to pander to the deep-base of their party.”
Moore says Sanders may have taken a moderate approach in his rhetoric during his 2016 presidential race, but that his gun rating from the NRA was poor — Sanders received a D-minus in 2012 and an F in 2018.
“I think maybe it’s possible that in 2016 he moderated his stance slightly because he was trying to run towards the middle in a small field, but now that he’s in a large field he needs to distinguish himself with the left,” Moore said. “So if his position has seemed to change, I think it’s only in his stump speeches. If you look at his early positions, you won’t find a great deal of change.”
Earlier in the year, Sanders posted about having the U.S. imitate New Zealand’s strict gun laws, which include bans on many semiautomatic guns, shotguns, and standard capacity magazines. His comments received a fair amount of backlash, too.
No sir. This is what a knee jerk reaction to a violent sociopath looks like. Removing the ability of the people to defend themselves in the face of increasing anarcy will only lead to tyranny.
— Jay Kelley (@JayJaykelley5) March 21, 2019
Sanders’ post also spurred debate about whether semiautomatic weapons are necessary in American society. “Semiautomatic” means the shooter gets one shot for each pull of the trigger.
I just gotta say, it took 6 minutes for the NZ police to arrive, with their semi-auto rifles.
Had either mosque been armed with weapons akin to those that are to be banned, a lot fewer lives would likely have been lost.
"No need?" I think the victims might beg to differ…
— vice . versa (@mythicquest) March 21, 2019